Do you want to swim with the big fish? Before enterprise clients will let you put on your bathing suit, they want to know you possess the ability to hold your own.
Competition is fierce out there, but with the right mindset and strategic actions you can – and will – land your target client. Here are some tips to help you get closer to that big day.
Landing a big client isn't about you. Let me say that again: It is not about you. If you lose sight of that fact, you're destined to lose the deal.
Bringing in that first, second, third, fourth and fifth enterprise client is contingent on remembering that to succeed, you must help your client succeed. How do you do that? Study everything you can about the client until you fully understand the business, strategies and objectives.
Next, clearly define how your product or service will help the company achieve its goals. If you can identify a problem or isolate areas for improvement, then you can clearly illustrate your ability to provide a unique solution.
Make the connection
One of the first two people to climb Mount Everest was Tenzing Norgay, a famous Sherpa mountaineer. He made the ascent in 1953 with Edmund Hillary, a mountaineer from New Zealand. Although historians have made many attempts to determine with certainty who stepped on the summit first, Norgay or Hillary, it's been claimed that the two men did it together, each playing a key role to make history. The lesson? Partnering with the right person can help you reach your goals.
As you try to land that enterprise client, try to identify your Norgay or Hillary. Talking to the wrong people wastes valuable time. However, if you can create a relationship with a strategic partner, that person can help get you in front of the right people and into the necessary meetings – all the more quickly than you could do on your own. Your target client is Mount Everest. Start climbing.
"An enterprise client needs to be convinced that working with your company is the best decision they could ever make," says Karthik Manimozh, president and COO of 1-Page. "One of the most effective ways to help them arrive at this conclusion is to let your reputation precede you."
The leadership, prestige and visibility that your company wields in the marketplace are all key factors that influence buying decisions. The answers your potential enterprise client seeks rest on your ability to shape your story. Good PR and marketing is the foundation. Strategic networking and social proof are pillars.
Remember, influence is something that comes with hard work. Simply attending a conference to garner visibility doesn't cut it. Instead, organize a meet-up group at the conference, visit with the people at every booth in the exhibit hall, become a sponsor, attend the sanctioned networking events, talk with fellow attendees while checking out of the hotel, and share a ride to the airport with other conference goers. Be everywhere; talk with everyone (but ensure your conversations are informative and upbeat, never desperate).
As you increase your visibility, you boost your influence. Once you do that, potential enterprise clients will no longer worry if you can do the job or whether or not you have the resources to service their needs. Instead, the conversation will be, "How can we work together?"
Persevere through tough times
It can take months or even more than a year to land an enterprise client. Nothing worth having comes easy.
During that time, you're bound to find yourself in countless meetings, possibly caught up in the middle of office politics, or jumping through hoops as the legal and procurement departments vet your company. Don't dismay. This is par for the course when trying to land an enterprise client.
"It's not unusual to have a six- to 12-month sales cycle when selling to Fortune 500 companies, which can be very hard for a startup," says Sam Odio, co-founder and CEO of Freshplum. "Stay focused and don't let yourself (or your company's leadership) get discouraged. As long as the client is engaging you, don't give up and your work will pay off."
Landing that first enterprise client isn't something that comes easy, but most good things in life never do. Just remember that it's an attainable goal – a goal, once met, that will change your business forever.
What strategies have worked for you?
Matthijs Keij is the co-founder and CEO of FlxOne, and previously co-founded Fresh Fruit Digital. He seeks to bridge the gap between technology and marketing, build a team with smart people, and enjoy the startup vibe and growth opportunity.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.